Charters and Caldicott

Charters and Caldicott by Stella Bingham

Book: Charters and Caldicott by Stella Bingham Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stella Bingham
the other three finally emerged from the station, they found St Clair hovering by the open front passenger door. ‘Shall I take the seat by the driver?’ he said to Margaret. ‘I think you will be more comfortable in the back, you know.’
    â€˜Fine,’ said Margaret, climbing in and taking a seat in the middle.
    â€˜Take care of the porter, old man, would you?’ Caldicott said to Charters, patting his own pockets ineffectually.
    â€˜Oh, very well!’
    â€˜After all, you’ve had the most use out of him.’ Caldicott followed Margaret into the car and closed the door.
    The chauffeur banged shut the boot lid on the last of the luggage and went round to open the other passenger door. Charters tipped the porter and, as he climbed into the Jaguar, caught sight of the chauffeur’s face for the first time. It was Helen Appleyard’s accomplice. Caldicott noticed Charters’ uneasy expression, looked past him and also recognised the chauffeur. The pair exchanged anxious looks across Margaret who, never having seen the man, was quite unperturbed. The chauffeur slammed the passenger door, climbed into the driver’s seat and drove off, his face impassive throughout.

    No one spoke as the Jaguar cruised up the long drive and stopped outside Josh Darrell’s country retreat, an impressive pile with enough towers, turrets and battlements to do credit to a fair-sized castle. Two servants emerged and began to unload the luggage, a butler hovered by the main entrance in a supporting role and the chauffeur, inscrutable as ever, opened the door for Charters to get out.
    Charters thanked him coldly. ‘I still don’t have your name.’
    â€˜Gregory, sir.’
    â€˜We seem to be seeing a lot of one another, Gregory.’
    â€˜Don’t we just? I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more,’ he said, suddenly menacing, and went to help the servants with the cases.
    A shot rang out as Caldicott, Margaret and St Clair strolled round the car to join Charters. They started nervously and looked about them. ‘The butler did it,’ Margaret joked. Then she froze, staring at two large, well-muscled men who appeared round the corner of the house and took up positions, sentry-style, on either side of the path. Their host, carrying a gun and followed by dogs, strode between his bodyguards and came towards them. Margaret, reassured, called, ‘Don’t shoot. We’re on your side.’
    Josh Darrell was American, youngish for his powerful position, and very attractive, a man who carried his responsibilities with an easy confidence. He embraced Margaret and shook hands with St Clair. ‘Glad you could make it.’ St Clair clicked his heels. Margaret began to make introductions but Darrell brushed formalities aside. ‘And you’re Messrs Caldicott and Charters.’
    â€˜Charters and Caldicott, we’re usually known as,’ said Charters, apologetically.
    â€˜Like Morecambe and Wise,’ said Margaret.
    â€˜It’s just something that’s become established,’ said Charters.
    â€˜How’ve you been?’ said Darrell.
    â€˜Quite well, thank you,’ said Caldicott. ‘What do you shoot here?’
    â€˜Anything that moves. Come along in. If you like guns, I have a whole museum of them.’
    Gregory watched thoughtfully as the party moved into the house.
    It was the custom, chez Darrell, to dress for dinner. Caldicott had donned an old-fashioned boiled shirt and red braces and was knotting his bow-tie when Charters came into his room. Charters had taken up the sartorial option of a cummerbund and was having trouble with his own neckwear.
    â€˜You might tie my tie, Caldicott. I’m a little out of practice.’
    â€˜Oh, it’s like riding a bicycle. Once learned, never forgotten.’ Caldicott took hold of the ends of Charters’ tie. ‘Now let me see. Right over left.’
    â€˜No, no.

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